29.06.1944 862nd Bomber Squadron (H) B-24H 42-94812 ‘Little Warrior’, 2nd.Lt. John H. Hansen
Operation: Fallersleben (Mission #447), Germany
Date: 29th June 1944 (Thursday)
Unit: 862nd Bomber Squadron (493rd Bombardment Group (H)), 8th Air Force
Type: B-24H Little Warrior
Serial No: 42-94812
Code: Issued but not displayed
Location: Steimker Berg, Kraft-durch-Freude-Stadt (later named Wolfsburg), Germany
Base: Debach airfield (Station #152), Suffolk, England
Pilot: 2nd.Lt. John Henry Hansen O-693976 AAF Age 23. Killed
Co Pilot: 2nd.Lt. Sydney Alexander Benson O-818558 AAF Age 21. Murdered (1)
Navigator: 2nd.Lt. Jerome Levy O-703629 AAF Age 23. Killed
Bombardier: 2nd.Lt. Malcolm McNeill Stich O-697746 AAF Age 22. Killed
Radio/Op: S/Sgt. Billy Bennett Gomillion 38424702 AAF Age 20. Killed
Eng/Top Turret: T/Sgt. Vernon John Polzin 38367667 AAF Age 21. Killed
Nose Gnr: S/Sgt. Sylvanus Green Haskell Jr. 39297646 AAF Age 27. Killed
Ball Turret: S/Sgt. Cyrus R. Aidala 32707915 AAF Age 21. Killed
Flex Waist Gnr:* Sgt. John Edward Sanders 18191467 AAF Age 27. Killed
Tail Gnr: S/Sgt. Walter Alexander Boykowski 13171280 AAF Age 20. Killed
The B-24 had 10 crew positions. Crew complements evolved during the war and comprised 9 personnel who were typically, but not always, Pilot, Co-Pilot, Bombardier, Navigator, Flight Engineer/Top Turret gunner, Radio Operator/Waist gunner, Nose gunner, Ball Turret gunner, Waist gunner, Tail gunner.
* The Flex Waist Gunner took up the position of either Left or Right Waist Gunner positions.
2nd.Lt. John Henry Hansen's crew
Standing Left to Right: 2nd.Lt. Levy, 2nd.Lt. Benson, 2nd.Lt. Hansen, 2nd.Lt. Stich, T/Sgt. Polzin; Front left to Right: S/Sgt. Aidalia, Sgt. Sanders, S/Sgt. Boykowski, S/Sgt. Gomillion, S/Sgt. Haskell Jr. (Courtesy of the American Air Museum in Britain)
REASON FOR LOSS:
The 493rd BG, on only its 17th mission, took off from Debach airfield on the morning of the 29th June 1944. The Little Warrior was one of 47 aircraft tasked with bombing the Junkers Flugzeugwerke aviation plant at Fallersleben in Germany.
An after mission report described that:
Aircraft #812 flying in #5 position in “A” Group received a direct flak hit near #3 Engine at 09:39 hrs in the target area just after bombs away. It was enveloped in flames from the nose to the rear of the bomb bays. It fell out of formation and disintegrated at about 10,000 feet.
'Little Warrior' just after being hit and before falling out of formation (Courtesy of the American Air Museum in Britain - Roger Freeman Collection)
The wreckage crashed at 09:42 hrs on the Steimker Berg, 330 yards south of the now named Parkhotel, in Kraft-Durch-Freude-Stadt (later named Wolfsburg). The aircraft was 99% destroyed and dispersed over about a 1000 yards in three main parts.
German records document that the only survivor was 2nd.Lt. Benson who was captured but injured and was taken to the Municipal hospital in Wolfsburg where he died the same day. The Germans reported that he was buried at the Forest Cemetery for PoWs at Fallersleben.
(1) The circumstance of 2nd.Lt. Benson’s death were unknown until a General Military Government Court convened at Dachau in Germany between the 4th and 8th April 1947.
Three German nationals were originally charged in that they did, at or in Wolfsburg, Germany, on or about the 29th June 1944, wilfully, deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet and participate in the killing of a member of the United States Army, believed to be 2nd.Lt. Sidney A. Benson, ASN O-818558, who was then and there a surrendered and unarmed PoW of the then German Reich.
The particulars of one of the three accused were deleted at the request of the prosecution. The two charged were a Helmut Lippmann who was a former Hitler Youth leader with the rank of Stammführer (Maj) and a member of the Nazi party since 1941, and a Kurt Kuhnert who was a former SA-Oberscharführer (Sgt) (SA=Sturmabteilung; Paramilitary arm of the Nazi party) and a member of the Nazi party since 1933.
The court heard that following a bombing attack upon Wolfsburg, Germany on the 29th June 1944, an American airman believed to be 2nd.Lt. Benson parachuted from his disabled aircraft, landing near Wolfsburg. The airman was captured by two police officials and several German soldiers. After he had been searched he was taken into the custody of Lippmann who was to march him to the police station at Wolfsburg.
En route to Wolfsburg Lippmann was seen by an eye-witness to fire several shots from his small calibre pistol at the airman from close range. It was later established that three rounds had hit the airman in the region of his hip. Lippmann claimed that the airman was attempting to escape which was not supported by the eye-witness testimony. Although wounded the airman managed to walk about another 650 yards into Wolfsburg. Here Lippmann left the airman in the custody of six to eight air raid wardens, including Kuhnert, standing in front of the local hospital while he made a telephone call.
The air raid wardens then attacked and beat the airman using their steel helmets as weapons. They left the airman severely beaten lying in a nearby ditch. Eventually he was taken to the nearby hospital where he died from his wounds, shortly thereafter.
The hospital’s chief surgeon testified that the cause of death was recorded as a result of a fractured skull. In his opinion it was difficult to determine which one of the airman’s wounds caused his death as each wound could have contributed to his death. However, he believed that the airman was beyond human help because of the skull fracture and he was less inclined to believe that the bullet wounds contributed to his death.
The court found Lippmann and Kuhnert guilty of the charge and sentenced Lippmann to death by hanging and Kuhnert to life imprisonment.
A Review and Recommendations board approved the findings of the court for Lippmann but did not consider that it was established that the airman died from his gunshot wounds. It was recommended that the death sentence be commuted to life imprisonment which was then reduced to 25 years. He was paroled during April 1954. The board considered that there was no evidence to support the findings of guilty and the sentencing for Kuhnert and recommended both be disapproved.
None of the other air wardens complicit in administering the beating to 2nd.Lt. Benson appear to have been identified or brought before a court.
German Reports confirm that the 2nd.Lt. Hansen, 2nd.Lt. Benson, 2nd.Lt. Levy, 2nd.Lt. Stich, S/Sgt. Haskell Jr., Sgt. Sanders and S/Sgt. Boykowski were identified by name and buried in the Forest Cemetery for PoWs at Fallersleben along with one unknown airman. There are no burial reports for the T/Sgt. Polzin, S/Sgt. Gomillion and S/Sgt. Aidala but one of the three may have been the unknown airman buried at the Forest Cemetery.
(Left: Courtesy Dominique Potier - FindAGrave) 2nd.Lt. John Henry Hansen. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery, Block H, Row 7, Grave 174. Relocated to Plot D, Row 2, Grave 16. Born on the 10th February 1921 in Plano, Madison County, Idaho. Son to Andrew H. Hansen from Flushing, New York, USA.
(Right: Courtesy RememberMe - FindAGrave) 2nd.Lt. Sydney Alexander Benson. Repatriated and buried at the Waterside Cemetery, Marblehead, Essex County, Massachusetts. Born on the 28th March 1922 in Massachusetts. Son of Harry Oscar and Mary D. (née Blake) Benson of Marblehead, Essex County, Massachusetts, USA.
(Left: Courtesy Dominique Potier - FindAGrave) 2nd.Lt. Jerome Levy. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery Block D, Row 6, Grave 137. Relocated to Plot A, Row 21, Grave 17. Born in 1920 New York. Son to Simon Levy from Camden, New York, USA.
2nd.Lt. Malcolm McNeill Stich. Repatriated and interred at the Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York, Lot 33044, Section 132. New York. Born in 1921, Brooklyn, New York. Son to Clifford and Florence Stich and husband to Jane (née Proctor) Stich of Brooklyn, New York, USA.
S/Sgt. Billy Bennett Gomillion. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Repatriated and interred at the Crestview Memorial Park, Wichita Falls, Texas. Born on the 5th November 1923 in Wichita, Texas. Son of Ernest Wade ‘Mack’ and Ila Fay (née Ward) Gomillion of Wichita Falls, Texas, USA.
T/Sgt. Vernon John Polzin. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Repatriated and interred at the Taylor City Cemetery, Williamson County, Texas. Born on the 19th November 1922 in Taylor, Williamson County, Texas. Son to Emil G. and Ella Ida (née Mink) Polzin and husband to Betty Jean Polzin of Taylor, Williamson County, Texas, USA.
(Left: Courtesy Tim Cook - FindAGrave) S/Sgt. Sylvanus Green Haskell Jr. Repatriated and interred at the Rose Hill Memorial Park, Whittier, Los Angeles, California. Born on the 14th April 1917 in El Centro, San Diego, California. Son to Sylvanus Green and Georgianna Haskell and husband to Geneva Lee Haskell of El Centro, San Diego, California, USA.
S/Sgt. Cyrus R. Aidala. Repatriated on the 16th May 1949 and interred at the Long Island National Cemetery, Farmingdale, New York, Plot J, Grave 15508. Born on the 1st April 1922, in Brooklyn, New York. Son of Salvatore Aidala of Brooklyn, New York, USA.
Sgt. John Edward Sanders. Purple Heart. Repatriated and interred at the Cox Cemetery, Canton, Van Zandt County, Texas. Born on the 1st January 1917 in Ben Wheeler, Texas. Husband to Vivian Marie Sanders of Goose Creek, Harris, Texas, USA.
(Right: Courtesy John Evans - FindAGrave) S/Sgt. Walter Alexander Boykowski. Purple Heart. Repatriated on the 17th June 1949 and interred at the Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia in Section 34, Grave 1486. Born on the 10th August 1923 in Pittock, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Son to Isabelle B. Boykowski of Pittock, Pennsylvania, USA.
Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with additional thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.